Who is liable for a dog bite in California?

Several parties could be held liable for making payments to someone who experiences a dog bite in California.

When a dog attacks and injures someone in California, a number of losses can occur. Primarily, the person who suffered the attack may need medical attention and even surgery. Additionally, the victim may need to miss work and sacrifice a paycheck. There are also emotional damages, as experiencing a dog bite can be traumatic.

So, who is responsible for compensating the victim for these losses? In California, the law states that several parties may be on the hook for making those payments.

Owner responsibility

California invokes strict liability when it comes to dog bites. In other words, the law states that the owner of the animal is liable for the damages whether or not he or she acted negligently. However, this is only the case when the following is true:

  • The victim did not provoke the animal.
  • The victim was not trespassing.
  • The dog is not part of law enforcement or military and is assisting a handler in that capacity.

As long as those conditions are met, the law states that a victim of a dog attack does not need to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent in order to recover compensation.

Homeowners’ insurance

There are many instances in which the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance will compensate a victim for his or her medical bills. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, California led the country in dog bite claims in 2015.

It must be noted, however, that these policies can often fall short of providing the subject of an attack with enough funds to truly cover every loss. For example, there are policy limits that will only offer up to a certain amount in payments. Additionally, an insurance policy will not take into account the intangible damage that someone incurs. In those situations, it may be best to file a dog bite lawsuit against the animal’s owner.

Landlord responsibility

Another party that may be held liable for a dog bite is the landlord of a property. Several court cases set a precedent for this issue. It applies to matters in which a landlord knew that a dog on the property had a history of viciousness. Generally, a landlord is expected to act with reasonable care and remove the threat of any dangerous condition, including an animal that could be prone to an attack. This is true for both commercial and residential properties.

A dog bite can be devastating for not only the victim, but his or her loved ones as well. People who have questions regarding this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in California.